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County’s Jobless Rate Rises in July : Economy: The 7.5% figure, significantly higher than a year ago, provides evidence of a stubborn recession.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The jobless rate in Ventura County grew to 7.5% in July--almost a full percentage point above the mark of a year ago and a signal that the recession still has a tight grip on the county’s economy.

In human terms, the statistic means that 28,000 people were looking for work, according to the state Employment Development Department. A year ago, the figure stood at 6.6%, with 25,300 people out of work.

The county’s July rate, just 0.3% higher than June, means an increase of 1,400 unemployed people from the previous month. The statewide rate for July was 8%.

Linda Reed, a state labor market analyst, said agriculture was the hardest-hit industry in July. But she said that part of the drop in agricultural jobs was due to seasonal factors.

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Reed said the number of government jobs also dropped during the month, which she partially attributed to recent budget cuts at the state and local levels.

Many economic experts predicted in May that the recession had bottomed out and a recovery period would follow. But the county’s 6.2% unemployment rate for May jumped to 7.2% in June, according to the EDD.

Richard L. Ball, senior vice president of Ventura County National Bank, said he still holds out hope for the economy. He said the recession is over, but it will take about six months before that is reflected in lower jobless rates.

“Recovery is based on confidence and when people start feeling confident, that growth begins to happen,” he said. “It is happening and it will be evident.”

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Despite such optimism, other indicators around the county show that the economy continues to slide.

For example, the number of single-family houses built during the first seven months of 1991 was 38% below the same period last year, according to the Construction Industry Research Board.

Between January and August of 1990, there were 2,122 single-family houses built in the county, compared to only 1,335 for the same period this year, said Ben Bartolotto, the board’s research director.

“We thought we started seeing signs of recovery in March,” he said. “But it didn’t last.”

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Pat Baldoni, a supervisor at the EDD office in Simi Valley, said she believes the recession is over, but it will take about four months before the unemployment rate begins to drop substantially. “It’s going to be a slow crawl out of it,” she said.

The number of people filing for unemployment benefits has remained relatively steady over the past year, she said. In July, 1,812 claims were filed at her office, Baldoni said.

But times remain tough. She pointed to a drop in new jobs offered each month at the Simi Valley office. Normally, there are about 200, she said. This month, her office had only 140.

Previously announced layoffs at the Newbury Park plant of aerospace giant Northrop Corp. continue to take their toll on the east county, she said.

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Suzette Cobb, assistant manager of the EDD office in north Oxnard, said the number of job notices at her office dropped by about the same amount. Jobs in the construction industry, she said, have become far more scarce.

“A lot of both large and small employers are having economic problems,” Cobb said.

Meanwhile, the number of people filing unemployment claims at the Oxnard office almost doubled in July, she said.

During that month, Cobb said, 4,296 people filed for unemployment insurance, compared to only 2,604 in June. Most lost their jobs in seasonal agricultural layoffs. But agricultural employers will begin to hire again in October, she said, when workers will be needed to plant next year’s strawberry plants.

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